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Sonic Dimensions of Twelver Shi’ism in Turkey: Living with the Household of the Prophet

Dr Stefan Williamson Fa, University College London

Wednesday 12 June at 5.30 pm

Devotion to the Household of the Prophet – the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter Fatima and the Twelve Imams, collectively known as the Ehli Beyt – is central to Shi’a Islam. Various genres of vocalised lament and praise for these figures are of particular importance in the acoustic worlds of Shi’i Muslims amongst other shared articulations including the recitation of the Qur’an. These sounded forms constitute a central way in which Muslims come to know and make present these divine figures in both ritual context and everyday life as they seek to cultivate love and attachment to them.

Drawing on ethnographic research carried out in Northeastern Turkey, this paper focuses on intimate ritual spaces of small-scale gatherings commemorating the births and deaths of the divine figures of the Household of the Prophet. This annual cycle of celebration and mourning is shown to be a way of cultivating love for these figures which relies on the staging of atmospheres and various sensory forms and practices. In these gatherings voice, sound, material objects and the senses play an instrumental role in the process of establishing relationships between ordinary individuals and the divine.

Bio: Stefan Williamson Fa is an anthropologist and ethnomusicologist whose academic interests focus broadly on the anthropology of Islam, sound and religion. He has conducted extensive research in Turkey, the Caucasus and Iran as well as in his home region of Gibraltar and Andalusia. He received a PhD in Social Anthropology from University College London in 2019 and is currently working on a manuscript and ethnographic film based on this work tentatively titled “Resounding Love for the Household of the Prophet”.

Beyond his academic research and publications Stefan is also a record, concert and tour producer, working closely with musicians and artists from the Caucasus, West and Central Asia and the Mediterranean. He is also the co-founder of Mountains of Tongues a project promoting musical diversity in the Caucasus.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://stefanwilliamsonfa.eventbrite.co.uk

Location : Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
United Kingdom